|MultimediaA. Relevant Congressional Hearings on CSPAN (4/17): Senate Hearing: Racial Profiling in America
(Video: 2 hrs 17 min.)
B. Truthdig (4/18): Secrecy, Wars, and Civil Liberties by Glenn Greenwald (Video: 64 min.)
C. NPR (4/18): Stories Put Spotlight On NYPD Surveillance Program (Audio: 34 minutes)
Pre-Crime Reports/Pre-emptive Prosecutions/Material Support/Thought Crimes
A. Mother Jones (4/17): American Muslim Alleges FBI Had a Hand in His Torture (Updated with Video)
Fikre … agreed to meet … but ultimately balked at cooperating with FBI questioning without a lawyer present and he rebuffed a request to become an informant. Pressing him to cooperate, the agents told him he was on the no-fly list and could not return home unless he aided the bureau, Fikre says. Fikre made his way to the UAE the following year, where, he and his lawyer allege, he was detained at the request of the US government. They say his treatment is part of a pattern of “proxy” detentions of US Muslims orchestrated by the the US government. Now, Fikre’s Portland-based lawyer, Thomas Nelson, plans to file suit against the Obama administration for its alleged complicity in Fikre’s torture.
B. AP/Google (4/19): US Muslim: I was tortured at FBI’s behest in UAE
A Muslim American seeking asylum in Sweden claimed Wednesday he was detained at the U.S. government’s request while in the United Arab Emirates last summer, tortured in custody and interrogated about the activities of a Portland, Oregon, mosque. Yonas Fikre told a news conference Wednesday that he was held for 106 days and was beaten, threatened with death and kept in solitary confinement in a frigid cell
C. New York Times (4/16): Witness Details Plot to Attack Subways
[A] lawyer for Mr. Medunjanin, Robert C. Gottlieb, argued in an emotional opening statement that his client, a naturalized citizen from Bosnia, had traveled to Pakistan because he wanted to defend innocent Muslims from American troops, not to become a suicide bomber. After returning to the United States, Mr. Gottlieb said, Mr. Medunjanin decided to separate from his two former classmates, Zarein Ahmedzay and Najibullah Zazi, who have pleaded guilty in the plot and are cooperating with the government.
D. New York Times (4/18): Witness Describes Bomb-Making Process for Thwarted Subway Plot
Mr. Zazi … and Mr. Ahmedzay have pleaded guilty and are testifying against Mr. Medunjanin in the hope of receiving shorter sentences. A lawyer for Mr. Medunjanin, Robert C. Gottlieb, has argued that his client had a falling out with his friends and withdrew from the plot.
E. Oregon Live (4/17): Mohamed Mohamud, facing federal terrorism charge, makes first court appearance in many months
Twenty-year-old terrorism suspect Mohamed Mohamud appeared in Portland’s federal courthouse Tuesday as his lawyers and government prosecutors argued over a laundry list of evidence sought by his defense team.
ACLU (4/19): Singling Us Out: NYPD’s Spying on Muslim Americans Creates Fear and Distrust
As an Irish American, and someone whose ancestors came to the United States before the Revolutionary War, I am particularly angry with and disappointed in Commissioner Ray Kelly. Has Commissioner Kelly forgotten the prejudice and bigotry that Irish Americans and Catholics have suffered in this country? Why is he subjecting other immigrants and religious minorities to that kind of racial and religious profiling and stigma…? Many of my Muslim student friends and colleagues are almost shut down by fear…. My fellow students describe censoring themselves in classes to avoid saying anything that might be taken as controversial or out of the mainstream on contemporary political issues even where they should be most free — in their academic speech.
Civil Freedoms Under Threat
A. Rolling Stone (4/16): The Rise of the Killer Drones: How America Goes to War in Secret
One day in late November, an unmanned aerial vehicle lifted off from Shindand Air Base in western Afghanistan, heading 75 miles toward the border with Iran. The drone’s mission: to spy on Tehran’s nuclear program, as well as any insurgent activities the Iranians might be supporting in Afghanistan…. something went wrong. One of the drone’s three data streams failed, and began sending inaccurate information back to the base. Then the signal vanished, and Creech lost all contact with the drone. Today, even after a 10-week investigation by U.S. officials, it’s unclear exactly what happened. Had the Iranians, as they would later claim, hacked the drone and taken it down…? What we do know is that the government lied about who was responsible for the drone.
B. Huffington Post (4/18): No-Fly List Court Battle Includes Three California Residents
[T]he no-fly list reportedly contains some 20,000 names, among them about 500 U.S. citizens. As many as 800 changes, such as removing or adding names, are made to the list each day. A much larger terrorism watchlist of a half-million people across the globe that contains the names of those barred from flying also includes individuals subjected to heightened security screenings. Because the no-fly list is classified, no one can be sure whether he or she will be prevented from flying until after arriving at the airport with a purchased ticket. The plaintiffs say they’ve been unfairly denied the convenience of air travel and must spend days on trains and in cars in order to cross the country. Civil libertarians argue that the list withholds the due process rights of travelers. There’s no meaningful way to dispute one’s inclusion on the list and determine if the status is based on mistakes or flawed intelligence.
Government Policy Under Scrutiny
A. TPMuckracker (4/16): Guantanamo Lawyers: Obama Gets Away With Legal Moves Bush Wouldn’t Have
Richard Kammen, a death penalty expert … called the reforms instituted by the Obama administration in 2009 “quite superficial” and said there are “huge, huge problems” in the military commissions system. “There is nothing about this system that the average American, if they were caught up in it, would see as being fair,” Kammen said.
B. The Hill (4/17): The right and wrong way to fix the NDAA
[B]ills seeking to “fix” the NDAA essentially break down into three categories…. First, there’s an effort to reinforce the habeas corpus rights of individuals detained in the United States…. A second approach … seek[s] to protect against indefinite detention, but only extends such protections to American citizens and Legal Permanent Residents picked up in the United States…. A third approach … would ensure that no one within the United States can be indefinitely detained without charge or trial, or tried by legally problematic military commissions. It also reverses an NDAA provision — opposed by virtually every national security expert, even former Bush administration officials — that tries to force our military to take custody of a category of foreign terrorism suspects.
C. Wall Street Journal (4/17): Terror Law’s Long Reach Challenged
Under the law, it can be a crime to possess a vast range of toxic chemicals, including common household cleaners, that can harm people or animals. It exempts “peaceful” uses, such as cleaning a kitchen with ammonia…
D. Courthouse News (4/18): NDAA Opponents Stretch Across the Aisle
Lawmakers, free-press advocates, small-government partisans, conservative think tanks, pro-gun groups, border-control activists, civil libertarians, a pastor and a professor forged an unlikely alliance Monday to speak against the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act in federal court. The motley crew hopes to intercede in a lawsuit against provisions of the law that have been dubbed “Homeland Battlefield.”
E. New York Times (4/18): Justices Limit Suits Under Law on Torture
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday that the family of an American citizen killed during a visit to the West Bank may not sue the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization under a 1991 federal law, the Torture Victim Protection Act. The law allows civil lawsuits against “an individual” who engages in torture or killings, and the question in the case was whether that term could apply not only to people but also to organizations. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the court, said the answer was no.
F. Washington Post (4/18): DOJ review of flawed FBI forensics processes lacked transparency
Michael R. Bromwich’s probe culminated in a devastating 517-page report in April 1997on misconduct at the FBI lab. His findings stopped short of accusing agents of perjury or of fabricating results, but he concluded that FBI managers failed — in some cases for years — to respond to warnings about the scientific integrity and competence of agents. The chief of the lab’s explosives unit, for example, “repeatedly reached conclusions that incriminated the defendants without a scientific basis” in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Bromwich wrote. The head of toxicology lacked judgment and credibility and overstated results in the 1994 Simpson investigation. After the 1993 World Trade Center attack, the key FBI witness “worked backward,” tailoring his testimony to reach the result he wanted. Other agents “spruced up” notes for trial, altered reports without the author’s permission or failed to document or confirm their findings.
A. David Cole in NY Review of Books (4/19): 39 Ways to Limit Free Speech
After a two-month trial, [Tarek Mehanna] was convicted of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization. The jury did not specify whether it found him guilty for his aborted trip to Yemen—which resulted in no known contacts with jihadists—or for his translations, so under established law, the conviction cannot stand unless it’s permissible to penalize him for his speech. Mehanna is appealing. Under traditional (read “pre-9/11”) First Amendment doctrine, Mehanna could not have been convicted even if he had written [the translated document] himself, unless the government could shoulder the heavy burden of demonstrating that the document was “intended and likely to incite imminent lawless action,” a standard virtually impossible to meet for written texts.
B. Sahar Aziz in the Christian Science Monitor (4/19): Tarek Mehanna: Punishing Muslims for free speech only helps Al Qaeda
[W]hat the prosecution was unable to show was Mehanna’s willingness to actually engage in violence in furtherance of his political beliefs. At numerous junctures during which Mehanna was under surveillance, Mehanna rebuked overtures by government informants and others to join them in a terrorist attack. To the contrary, Mehanna limited his actions to speaking out and writing against US foreign policy as well as translating controversial extremist materials into English.
C. Engy Abdelkader in the Star Ledger (4/20): Profiling, as in NYPD Muslim probe, does not improve security
Studies dating to the 1990s have shown that police officers who engage in profiling were less likely to find contraband in searches of their targets than they were in their searches of whites. In other words, profiling does not work.